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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2014
OC Human Relations’ Legacy Awards to Honor
Orange County’s Civil Rights Heroes on May 8
*Commemorating 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act*
(Santa Ana)— In December, 1964, Dorothy Mulkey, an African American Orange County resident, challenged Proposition 14 after a Santa Ana landlord refused to rent a vacant apartment to her family. In 1963, the California State Legislature had passed the Rumford Act, also known as the “fair housing act,” which declared that racial discrimination in housing rental or sales was against the law. In response, the California Real Estate Association sponsored Proposition 14 to overthrow the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Proposition 14 passed by a vote of 3 to 1 in Orange County. The ACLU took the Mulkey v. Reitman case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, and in 1967 the court declared Prop 14 unconstitutional. Landlords no longer could refuse to rent to people because of their skin color, religion or ethnicity.
Also integral in ensuring that all Orange County residents receive equal treatment in accessing housing in Orange County is Robert Johnson, who has been deeply involved in advocacy for fair housing in Orange County since 1966. He worked tirelessly for almost three decades to eliminate segregation of African Americans in the county through the Orange County Fair Housing Council, of which he presently is a board member. Johnson is also a board member of the Orange County Community Housing Corporation, which he co-founded in 1978 to provide housing for extremely low-income people, and is on the board of the Santa Ana Black Historical Society.
The Legacy Awards will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by honoring individuals and groups that have made extraordinary contributions to Orange County by advocating for civil rights in education, employment, health, housing, immigration, justice and labor, and more.
“Fifty years ago the struggle for fairness and justice culminated in the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. This milestone in the fight for equality was preceded by years of efforts and followed by five decades of activism to make those ideals true in our communities,” said Rusty Kennedy, OC Human Relations’ CEO. “OC Human Relations is celebrating some of the iconic people who played an important role in this pursuit of civil rights for all. We hold up these individuals to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their efforts to stand up and be counted.”
The Legacy Awards honorees are:
• Santa Ana resident Dorothy Mulkey and Tustin resident Robert A. Johnson for their persistent and resolute efforts to ensure fair housing opportunities for all Orange County residents.
• For decades, Costa Mesa residents Jean and Frank Forbath have been dedicated to making life more bearable for Orange County’s poor and marginalized. In the 1970s, the Forbaths became aware of the despicable conditions in the farm labor camps of Orange County. As volunteers serving this invisible community, they initiated investigations and advocacy to shine the light on these migrant worker camps. They brought this issue to the OC Human Relations Commission and ultimately the Orange County Grand Jury. As a result, the Orange County Health Department started a program of outreach; laws were passed; and the conditions in the camps improved. In 1970, the Forbaths founded Share Our Selves (SOS) to provide emergency aid to Orange County’s homeless and indigents. For 22 years, Jean served as the organization’s unpaid executive director; for 30 years, as its coordinator of the holiday Adopt-A-Family Project, and for 39 years, on the SOS Board of Directors, including being chair with her husband, Frank. She now assists the non-profit as a member of the trustee council. SOS has organized food drives, back-to-school donations and fundraisers to provide medical, social and dental services free of charge.
• Anaheim resident Amin David was one of the founders of the OC Human Relations Commission in 1971. Since then, Orange County has benefited from his thirst for justice and equality. In 1978, David founded Los Amigos de Orange County, an organization dedicated to issues and concerns affecting the Latino community in Orange County with the simple motto, “Nos Gusta Ayudar,”/“We Like to Help.” David has worked to protect the weakest, to correct brutal mistakes, and face without hesitation seemingly insurmountable problems, including police brutality, immigration reform, housing, poverty, unemployment or hunger. “Amin can’t be bought off, scared off or pushed off. He’s an advocate for human rights and human dignity in the Latino community and he believes in it like he believes in his religion–deeply,” said Bill Thom, a founding member of Los Amigos and former Mayor of Anaheim, who, before his death worked hand in hand with David. He is also involved in KinderCaminata which provides college visits for kindergarteners, the Orange County Community Housing Corporation which creates permanent affordable housing, the Anaheim Police Chief’s Advisory Board which builds understanding between police and community members, as well as other organizations.
• Estrada, Guzman, Mendez, Palomino, and Ramirez, v. Westminster School District, et al, was a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in Orange County, California schools. Five Mexican American fathers from Orange County, Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Gonzalo Mendez, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez, challenged the practice of school segregation in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children of Mexican ancestry, were victims of unconstitutional discrimination by being forced to attend separate schools in the Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modena school districts of Orange County. The plaintiffs were represented by an established Jewish American civil rights attorney, David Marcus. Funding for the lawsuit was primarily paid for initially by the lead plaintiff, Gonzalo Mendez, who began the lawsuit when his three children were denied entrance to their local Westminster school. Senior District Judge Paul J. McCormick presided at the trial and ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946, finding segregated schools to be an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. The school district appealed to the Ninth Federal District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which upheld Judge McCormick’s decision, finding that the segregation practices violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Governor Earl Warren, who would later become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and preside over Brown vs. Board of Education, signed into law the repeal of remaining segregationist provisions in the California statutes. Several organizations joined the appellate case as amicus curiae, including the NAACP, represented by Thurgood Marshall and Robert L. Carter. .
• Pastor Mark Whitlock of Aliso Viejo founded the Christ Our Redeemer (COR) African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Irvine in 1998. Whitlock built COR into one of the largest predominately African American congregations in Orange County with a reputation of speaking truth to power and reaching out to the multi-ethnic community. Whether caring for the drug-addicted man who was shot to death while evading the police, or the former Olympian who feels she was pulled over and harassed, handcuffed and held for an hour on the curb before being released with no ticket or charges just because she was black, Whitlock has been an outspoken advocate for civil rights. He has partnered with the Probation Department and the Orange County Sheriff to bring Latino and African American clergy together to create a safety net for returning felons. He has also advocated for young boys and men of color who are being disproportionately expelled from schools in zero tolerance policies that offer no alternative place for them but to fall into worse situations. And, when Anitra Chatman and her family were fleeing Orange County due to a spate of hate crimes and incidents targeting them in Yorba Linda, Whitlock called for and helped organize immediate action to address this issue in the community.
• When the civil rights laws of our country fell short of protecting the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Irvine resident Tina Correa did not. She stepped up as an organizer of movements to change the world; Correa made a difference for the LGBT community in Orange County. She helped launch and sustain the county’s first high school Gay Straight Alliance Club which spread to campuses across the country. She served as the chapter president of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, leading the movement to protect LGBT students and faculty. Correa also created a Parent Leadership Institute to empower immigrant parents of English learners and educated new immigrant communities about their rights with police, schools, cities, federal immigration, as well as county and state officials. She assumed responsibility for thousands of files of undocumented immigrants defrauded by La Guadalupana notaries and coordinated finding the victims and returning their priceless documents to them. As a Latina who grew up in the labor camps of Irvine Ranch where her father worked in the fields, she attended kindergarten at a public school in the affluent suburban community of Irvine as one of the only non-English speaking children of color and overcame the abject fear she faced as she walked into that first classroom. She continued to encounter the persistent discrimination of a school system that expected little of her, and the hurdle of a non-English speaker in an English-only world. She grew up fast acting as the intermediary for her non-English speaking parents and later for all of the families in the trailer park where the Latino laborers lived. She became the “comadre” of the voiceless and discriminated, starting from those early days throughout her three decades of service at the OC Human Relations Commission.
• Irvine resident Mary Anne Foo is the tireless leader of the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA), a diverse community organization that gives voice to emerging communities. Founded in 1997, the OCAPICA was the shared vision of Foo and a small group of activists who felt the need for a unified pan-Asian American voice. OCAPICA focused on research, advocacy, and education around issues of health within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. By 1999, OCAPICA expanded to include legislative education and advocacy, as well as youth development, cultural arts, and curriculum development. OCAPICA has grown in response to the needs of the AAPI and other underserved communities, expanding its programming in: mental health and wellness for youth and families; civic engagement and voter empowerment; youth employment; and academic mentoring and college readiness. OCAPICA also partners with local area universities on research, evaluation, and service learning. Today, 17 years later, under Foo’s leadership, OCAPICA has grown to almost 40 staff with more than 20 different programs and partnerships with more than 30 organizations.
• Garden Grove resident Annan Aboul-Nasr works for the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC) in Anaheim. She is an advocate for social justice, especially for the homeless and workers’ rights, and is a representative of the Muslim community with interfaith partners such as Orange County Congregation Community Organization. In the face of unwarranted fear and prejudice against the Muslim community, Aboul-Nasr sees the importance of being a positive representation of Muslim values in various interfaith settings. As a lead staff in community relations efforts of IIOC, she facilitates opportunities for the congregation to be aware of injustice and to take a part in services and advocacy for those in need. She organized a screening of the documentary about motel kids in Orange County in February 2011 and a town hall meeting in response to bigotry against Muslims at an event in Yorba Linda in June 2011. She also coordinated distribution of 500 school supply kits for those in need in the surrounding predominately low-income Latino community around the mosque. She organizes bi-monthly “Volunteer [email protected]” events where the congregation prepares brown bag lunches and distributes them to the homeless at La Palma Park in Anaheim and Santa Ana Civic Center. She is an active member of the Anaheim Poverty Task Force, an interfaith group advocating for needs of the homeless population in the city of Anaheim. Aboul-Nasr works over and above the call of duty, serving the needs of the poor, building understanding among diverse communities, and advocating for justice for all.
• While attending Huntington Beach High School, Huntington Beach resident Jennifer Rojas distinguished herself as someone who cared about others and could bring together movements for justice. She was active in OC Human Relations’ BRIDGES program through which she organized initiatives such as Social Justice Week on her campus. The goal of this initiative was to unite student leadership groups around a common cause and raise her peers’ awareness of the injustice that exists in the world. Social Justice Week continues even though Rojas has graduated and moved on. As a youth organizer in high school she partnered with the administration to build a safer, more inclusive campus. She served as an intern at BRIDGES’ Summer Leadership Camp educating high school students on the subjects of social justice, leadership, and organizing skills based upon the Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolent Organizing. She facilitated hour–long workshops on the genocide in Darfur, on stereotype awareness and social justice, and served as co-emcee for the Walk In My Shoes Youth Conference, bringing together over 500 diverse youth to inspire their civic engagement. Now at the University of California, San Diego, she continues to advocate for people in need of fairness, including undocumented students, English-learner parents, campus service workers, child care providers, LGBTQ students, and many more. During her summer break she served as an intern for the Women’s Assistance and Business Association in Accra, Ghana. Rojas uses her knowledge and skills of working for social justice by empowering her peers to understand the issues and take appropriate action to change the world for the better. She cares deeply about working for a more just and equitable society and is not afraid to take an unpopular stand if she feels it is the right thing to do.
• Fountain Valley resident Rabbi Stephen J. Einstein founded Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley in 1976. He has been a voice for intergroup understanding and against hate and bigotry throughout his life, as demonstrated by his service on the boards of the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest human relations organizations in the country, and the Anti-Defamation League, an international protector of those targeted by hate crime. Since 1976, Rabbi Einstein has taught the community-wide Introduction to Judaism course, and is co-author of Every Person’s Guide to Judaism. A pioneer in outreach, he retired on June 30, 2012 from Congregation B’nai Tzedek, and is now the co-chair of Reform Judaism’s Commission on Outreach, Membership and Sacred Community and currently teaches Comparative Religion at California State University, Fullerton. He was honored by the Orange County Bureau of Jewish Education for Major Contributions to Jewish Learning and as Mensch of the Year and is the recipient of the American Jewish Committee’s Micah Award for Interfaith Relations. Passionately committed to education as the key to progress, Rabbi Einstein served on the Board of Trustees of the Fountain Valley School District from 1984–1990. He was an Executive Advisory Board Member of the Institute for Character Education (Orange County Department of Education) and serves on the PBS/SoCal Community Advisory Board. As part of the rabbi’s concern for his community, he is a chaplain for the Fountain Valley Police Department. He is the past president of the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council and past chairman of the board of Retinoblastoma International. He is on the board of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) and a member of Clergy for Choice. He also serves on the Interfaith Outreach Committee of the Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County, and is a member of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue.
OC Human Relations is proud to partner with Title Sponsor Wells Fargo to present the Legacy Awards.
“Wells Fargo has a history rich in diversity. One of my favorite statements from our Vision & Values booklet is, ‘Proper respect must be shown to all—let them be men, women, or children, rich or poor, white or black—it must not be forgotten that the Company is dependent on these same people for its business.’ That statement is actually from our first booklet published in 1888. Since then we have only magnified our respect for all people by helping our team members, communities and customers thrive. We are proud to be strong partners with the Orange County Human Relations and to sponsor this year’s very special 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act dinner,” said Ben Alvarado, Wells Fargo Orange County Community Banking President.
Other Legacy Award sponsors (as of this date) include: Titanium Sponsors: Related California and Southern California Edison; Diamond Sponsors: Southern California Gas Company and Susan and John Reese; Gold Sponsors: Disneyland Resort, Anita Varela and Rusty Kennedy, Chevron, and the University of California, Irvine; Table Sponsors include: Charlene and Ralph Bauer, California Sikh Council, California State University, Fullerton, Crevier Family Foundation, Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, Jim McQueen, North Orange County Community College District, Orange County’s Credit Union, St. Joseph Health Community Partnership Fund, Schools First Federal Credit Union, Sean Thomas and Dan Long, and the OC Department of Education. Individual tickets for the event are $200. For details about sponsorship opportunities, contact Barbara Hunt at (714) 834-7181 or [email protected] or visit www.ochumanrelations.org.
For more information about The Legacy Awards and any of the award recipients or to schedule interviews with the honorees, please contact Don Han at (714) 796-8361 or [email protected]
About OC Human Relations
Since 1971, OC Human Relations has worked to build bridges of understanding to promote a vision of our community where all people are valued and included and our diversity is realized as a source of strength. The Orange County Human Relations Council is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1991 for the purpose of developing and implementing proactive human relations programs in partnership with schools, corporations, cities, foundations and individuals. For more information, visit www.ochumanrelations.org or call 714-567-7470. Connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WeAreOneOC.
About the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act, enacted on July 2, 1964, prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations”).